This is the Kabba. Located in Mecca it is believed to house one of Antarah’s poems

Antarah ibn shaddad was a pre-Islamic poet whose mother was an Ethiopian slave and father was of the ancient Arab tribe the Banu Abs. The fact that his mom was a slave also gave Antara the status of a slave until heroic deeds he did for the Banu Abs won his fathers approval and recognition. Antarah’s poetry is some of the most revered poetry in Islam and in Arabic culture in general with one of his poems included in the Muʻallaqāt (7 poems regarded to be the best works of pre-Islamic Arabia that were believed to have been hung in the kabba in mecca).

Antarahs poetry dealt with a number of significant aspects of his life including, battle, love, and of course race. Just as there is today there were negative connotations surrounding people with darker skin during the time that Antara was alive. His poetry and his story was the inspiration of the myth of Antar, a character based on Antara, that was spread throughout the ancient middle east via oral tradition and even in the present the myth of Antar continues to be adapted onto modern mediums such as comic books etc.

As an African-American adopted by a white family that lived in white community I feel like I can personally relate to Antara’s struggles with his own race and identity. We see in his poetry moments of pride in his race and we see moments in which seems to separate himself from blackness in the path to find acceptance within his community.

Here I attempt to write a poem detailing aspects of my life and my identity in ways similar to Antara and his poetry. While Antara focused on his heroism, strength, battle prowess etc. to claim his spot in society and criticize tho who see blackness as bad I focus more on the fact that my blackness is not what the people in my community think it is or should be. I try to show my struggle with identity due to these views, my anger that these views exist and my pride in overcoming them in a way similar to how he does in some of his poetry. And, of course Antara often spoke of his love for Ablah and I also try add an aspect of that in the poem as well. Enjoy.

To hell with this place      

To hell with this place

and its views on race

I could see it in their face

from the moment they saw my skin

“Why isn’t he good at sports?”

They thought I would grow to be tall

But in fact… I am short

They say blackness is a loss

I could try to be “white”

But… at what cost?

The hell with that place

And its views on race

I rise victorious, my blackness still intact

The experience that comes with it still clinging to my back

An impossible victory is what I have won

I am still black,

after a lifetime

of “not really black “

“not truly black”

“To be black you have to be…”

No. Stop.

To hell with this place

And its views on race

My blackness doesn’t make me what you think I should be

It makes me…me.

So. Look at my face

Do you see it?

This black battle paint. It covers me

I am the battle saint

Can you see the tears well in my eyes

As I prepare to shout my battle cry

Do you come to mock my race?

Well,…come.

Dare you do it to my face?

The hell with this place

And its views on race

I wonder how such a beautiful place

Could make me feel so much distaste

I was…am…in love with this place

At times I long to go back

The soil has this…feel

The air…has that taste

I truly did fall in love with this place

Just not with its views on race